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What to Do if You Are Placed on a School’s Waitlist

What to Do if You Are Placed on a School's Waitlist

Being placed on a waitlist for a school you really want to attend is difficult. However, there are things you can do to try and secure a seat at a school of your choice. We encourage you to be proactive and seek other options when you find yourself on a school’s waitlist.


Check Your Placement on the Waitlist

If you applied to a school on Apply Philly Charter, log in to your Apply Philly Charter account to monitor you waitlist position. Schools will contact you if a seat becomes available. If you applied through the District School Selection Process or Apply Philly Charter and were placed on a waitlist, call the school directly to see where you are on the list. At some schools, waitlists are extensive and the odds of being offered a seat are extremely small. Other schools might have much smaller waitlists, meaning that you may be offered a seat when other students withdraw their applications or decide not to return for the upcoming school year. Knowing this can give you a better sense of where you stand.

TIP: don’t hesitate to call the school more than once to ask for an update on your place on the waitlist. We recommend checking your spot on the waitlist: (1) immediately after the lottery; (2) during the summer; (3) a week or two after the first day of school and (4) a week or two after students come back from winter break.


Apply to Charter Schools

Some charter schools have upcoming deadlines and are still accepting applications. Contact the school directly for instructions to apply.

If your neighborhood school is a Renaissance charter school, you are eligible to enroll at that school if you live within the catchment boundaries regardless of the application deadline. However, you will still need to submit an application, and then the school will contact you with the next steps to enroll your student. Most Renaissance charter schools accept applications through Apply Philly Charter. If you applied to a Renaissance charter school and live outside of the catchment zone, you will automatically be placed on the waitlist until the start of the school year. At the beginning of the school year, remaining open seats for students living outside of the catchment zone can be filled if there is space available.

About 80 charter schools participate in Apply Philly Charter, the online common application system for Philadelphia charter schools. The deadline to apply for September 2021 is Monday, January 25, 2021. After the application deadline, you can continue to apply to these schools on applyphillycharter.org. By submitting a post-deadline application, you are automatically placed on the waitlists for those schools. You will receive notification from the school(s) directly if a seat becomes available.


Register at your District Neighborhood School

Did you know that you are eligible to enroll for a seat at your District neighborhood school? By registering at your District neighborhood school, you will have an option while you wait to see if your application status at another school changes. To register, identify your neighborhood school using the District’s school finder. Next, gather all documents needed to enroll your student and go to the school in person. We recommend calling the school ahead of time to ensure staff is on hand to support and answer questions.

It is important to note that registering at your neighborhood school does not mean that you have to go there. If you are accepted at another school that you want to attend, you should enroll at your preferred school and then notify the neighborhood school that you will not be attending.

If you encounter any issues enrolling at your neighborhood District school, please contact the Office of Enrollment at the School District of Philadelphia at 215-400-4290.


Apply to Private Schools

Private schools are an additional option and many accept applications on a rolling basis, meaning you can submit an application at any time during the year. Attending private schools may seem like an expensive option, but many scholarships and financial aid opportunities can make a private school education possible.

Families interested in private schools should reach out to the school directly and ask about the admissions process, financial aid assistance and scholarships. Private schools have their own admissions policy, but most involve an application, interview, and potentially an entrance exam. Some schools may waive application fees if it is a financial burden on the family.

There are different types of private schools: private independent schools and parochial schools.

  • Private independent schools are basically all private schools that are not affiliated with the Catholic Church. This means that these schools are extremely diverse in interest; some private independent schools offer extremely small class sizes, single-gender composition, a particular academic focus, etc.
  • Private parochial schools are connected with the Catholic Church and can fall under two branches: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Independence Mission Schools. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools operate most private schools in Philadelphia.
  • For Archdiocese Catholic high schools, applicants can apply through the application. Archdiocese elementary and middle schools have their own individual applications. To apply to these schools, visit each school’s profile on greatphillyschools.org and click the Apply Now button to view the application.
  • Independence Mission Schools is a network of 15 private Catholic K-8 schools throughout the city. Due to their small number of schools, space is limited, so it is imperative to begin an application soon.



If your child is a K-8 student, Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia provides partial private school scholarships for families that meet their income eligibility. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is March 1, 2021 and families are selected through a random lottery.

There are additional funds for scholarships that can be used for K-12 students enrolling in private schools. BLOCS, Ellis Trust for Girls, and the Young Scholars Program are just three examples of scholarships that lessen the cost of private schools. Learn more about specific scholarships and their application criteria here.


Financial Aid

Often, financial aid support comes directly from the private school. The two categories of aid are need-based aid and merit-based aid. Need-based aid is based entirely on family-income, while merit-based aid can reward students for their academic achievements, extra-curricular activities, or cultural backgrounds. Call schools directly to find out if there are still financial aid opportunities.

Read more about financial aid for Archdiocese of Philadelphia Catholic schools here.


Next Steps

This list of recommendations and the Find a School search feature on our website can help you while you are waiting. Use this as an opportunity learn about public District schools, charter schools, private schools, and your neighborhood school option and identify other schools that might be also be a good fit for your student. Visit greatphillyschools.org and ‘like’ us Facebook for information about open seats (when available) and when you can apply to schools for the next application year.


More information

Looking for more information on finding a great school? See all articles here.

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